Yeah Yeah, I Know

Monday, February 24, 2014 – Week of 7 Epiphany, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 106:1-18 (morning) // 106:19-28 (evening)

Proverbs 3:11-20

1 John 3:18-4:6

John 11:17-29

Our day-to-day conversations are often so full of commonplaces and platitudes that we just might miss something remarkable. In today’s gospel, Martha thinks that Jesus is offering her just another scripted response to the loss of a loved one. When Martha tells Jesus that her brother, Lazarus, has died, he tells her, “Your brother will rise again.” Perhaps this sounded to Martha like the lines that get used today when we speak to a grieving person: “I’m sorry for your loss,” “She’s in a better place,” “He’s at peace now.”

At first, Jesus’ promise of resurrection seems to bring Martha no comfort. She says simply that she’s heard all this before. I can picture her saying to Jesus, “Yeah yeah, I know. I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day. I’ve heard it before. I know I’m supposed to believe it.” Like many Jewish people of her time, she believed in an ultimate day, far into the future, when the dead would be raised, and she thinks that Jesus is reminding her of this belief.

Jesus has to draw Martha back from the concept of some distant day of resurrection into the present moment. He tells her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” It turns out that the resurrection isn’t waiting for her in some far-off day that won’t give her much comfort now. The resurrection is standing right there in front of her.

Well, now it’s our turn. How do we hear Jesus’ words? When he tells us that he is the resurrection and the life, and that everyone who lives and believes in him will never die, do we believe him? Or are we tempted to say, “Yeah yeah, I know. I’ve heard it before. I know I’m supposed to believe it.”

What exactly Jesus means by “eternal life” is one of the great mysteries of the Christian faith. It’s likely that we will wrestle with this question for our whole earthly lives, so we might as well take it on today. Whatever this life is, Jesus says in today’s gospel that it should make a difference for us right here and right now, and not simply on some far-off day.

And the eternal life that Jesus offers might have some unexpected qualities, some dimensions that we think we’ve heard of, that we think we should believe in . . . but that we might not actually understand. Today, let’s pray that we can enter that life, and share that life, and that it will make a difference to us both as we face our losses and as we pursue our ultimate purpose.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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